Sunday, 30 October 2011

A tiny bit marvellous-book review

A tiny bit marvellous is comedian Dawn French's first dibble in the world of fiction writing, following her autobiography Dear Fatty.

Rather than relying heavily on plot to retain readers, as the majority of fiction writers tend to do, French's writing style alone carries the book. Adopting three entirely different writing styles for Mo, Dora and Peter (Oscar) Battle allows their individual world view to be understood in no uncertain terms. However, in places Dora's chapters are sprinkled a little too liberally with "like" and other such teenage markers.

From the start you very much get the impression that the matriarchal character of Mo is, perhaps subconsciously, based loosely on French herself. Her quick witted ways have strong echoes of Dear Fatty 

French's admirable versatility and extreme talent as both a comedic and serious writer are well showcased throughout this book, which is perhaps not as gripping as French's autobiography, Dear Fatty, but equally well written and deserving of a read.

For more Scribbling Lau book reviews, click here, or to read my review of Dawn French's 'Dear Fatty', click here.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

The Exmoor Emperor

I've just rediscovered this article I wrote this time last year as a satirical take on the story of the Exmoor Emperor (for a reminder of the story, click here). Unfortunately the article never got published in the satirical magazine I wrote it for, so I thought I'd share it here instead. All comments welcome.

As the mystery deepens with regards to the disappearance of the ‘Exmoor Emperor’, more and more witnesses from the country village of Rackenford are coming forward, excited at the prospect of appearing in a newspaper, or even better, this new fangled device called a ‘television’.

“Well my lover” said Jim Newit, local farmer and token country bumpkin, when questioned on his knowledge of the subject, “all I knows is that I was sitting here, watching me sheeps, oh they’re me pride and joy they are, when out of the sky came what can only be described as a very modern vehicle, horse drawn and all it was, and in it sat a portly gentleman wearing a red velvet jacket. I don’t know what language he was speaking, all ‘e said was ‘oh oh oh’ and then muttered something about needing to find the bugger before anyone realised the mistake over ‘Rudie’ at the abattoir. Now my lover, I’m not too sure who Rudie is, but if you’re asking me, it sounds like one of those gangster names from old London Town.  Before I knew what was ‘appenin’ he had bundled the emperor into a giant sack marked ‘toys’ and instructed his herd to fly to B&Q. He said something about needing some red paint to make this cover-up work. Anyway he flew back off into the sky. It was all very sudden, and to be quite frank, I’m not sure I like it.”    

So it appears that the search continues. Local police are puzzled by the description of the thief. “ ‘e must been an outsider” commented head of local police Frank Merton “for ‘e was seen wearing a red jacket and everyone around here is a die hard fan of the tweed look.” When asked whether any forensic tests had been undertaken on the scene of crime, Merton looked confused and muttered something about the criminal’s friends being unlikely to give any information to the police. This is the largest crime ever committed on Rackenford police territory, the full scale police investigation involving all two and a half police officers of the Rackenford force (and a Hereford cow named Bessie, who does the paperwork for the force.)

When Farmer Jones was asked if he had anything to add, he simply asked “Will I be on a television now? We have one in the village pub now and everything, it’s all very exciting, although we’ve yet to work out how to switch it on, like”

Talking clock-Product review

A recent visit to one of my favourite shops, Give the dog a bone, resulted in a rather spontaneous purchase on my part.  A talking clock. How exciting. And in the shape of an apple too!

"What does it say?" I asked the befuddled looking shop assistant, who thankfully is also one of my closest friends, and therefore used to my crazy ramblings, "Does it dish out infinite words of wisdom and inspiration in your darkest hours? Or can you record your own utterances and have them played back to you?"

Actually, the clock tells you the time and the temperature when you press the little stalky button on top. As it happened, I had just relegated my old clock to the drawer, battery-less, for being too noisy, and so I took this as a sign that it was meant to be and purchased the clock.

In theory a talking clock is a grand old idea, one that Wallace and Gromit would have been proud to come up with. In fact they're probably kicking themselves right now that they didn't. Calm down lads, and have another piece of Wensleydale, I see some flaws in this product.

As well as the talking setting, where you press the apple stalk to hear the time, the clock also has a silent setting. If you press the stalk, the screen lights up, showing you the time and temperature. It's one of those colour changing screens, that stays alight for 20-30 seconds going through several colours of light before turning itself off. Either setting is great for people who can't sleep easily with the light of a clock glaring down at them.

The more sharp minded reader will have already noticed the problem with this. In order to see/hear the time in the middle of night, you have to drag your arm out of it's lovely warm position under your duvet, s-t-r-e-t-c-h across to the other side of the bed, possibly across anyone else who happens to be in your bed and press the button. Plus, if it's on the speaker setting, it is liable to wake other people up, resulting in angry housemates. The possibilities are endless.

Some of the instructions are written in questionable English. This isn't an English language student and aspiring writer being pernickity over the odd misplaced apostrophe. Oh no. I quote one paragraph from the instructions

           "when the alarm unseal, it will play the music ring 
when the alarm time arrive the setting time, music will 
continue one minute, it will talk time one time 
when the music talking at last second."

Resultingly, the alarm hasn't successfully worked yet, so no comment on what sound it may or may not make. Not a problem if you're a student who rarely has anyway to be before 11am. Slightly problematic if you're a businessman who must be up at 6:32:23 each morning to catch an overpacked train to a bustling city in order to do a highly-important-yet-top-secret job.

Another annoyance is the voice. It's an American woman, and a highly annoying one at that. There is nothing wrong with American women, or indeed their voices, except that this particular one happens to be annoying. On reflection, maybe that'll make an effective alarm. Maybe we'll never know.

If you're in the market (or indeed, in Give the dog a bone) for a serious clock, then this fruit themed wonder is probably not for you. If, however you're looking for something a little bit quirky, then this clock is unusual and definitely has it's benefits. The annoying American woman is not one of them.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Dear Fatty-book review

Dear Dawn French,

I have just finished reading your fabulous autobiography "Dear Fatty". My, you are a funny lady, aren't you? I mean, we all knew that. Who could forget you puddle-diving, gate-hopping, chocolate-munching antics as the lovely Geraldine in The Vicar of Dibley. But who knew that under your smiley, cuddly exterior (I hope you don't mind me calling you cuddly. I don't think you will) there is such a fiercely protective mother, such a devoted wife, such a caring daughter and sister?

It makes such a refreshing change for a celebrity autobiography to not be all me, me, me. Obviously it is largely about you, it wouldn't be a very good autobiography if it wasn't now, would it? But how clever of you to address it to members of your family and your friends, who have helped you to become who you are today. It adds a certain poignancy, don't you think? But so laugh out loud so funny at the same time. Genius.

And of course, it was good to finally learn where your love of Terry's Chocolate Oranges comes from.

May you keep entertaining our nation for many years to come. You and Fatty. Although I've just seen her on the tellybob. Anyway anyway anyway, fab book, keep being funny.

Laura Reynolds (not a nickname)
(age 20)

P.S  I hope you gave Official Tin Voice from the Athletics competition hell. I'm sure you did. That's why so many people like you. That Madonna lady wouldn't have done, she would have been pleased for the attention, and for everyone to see her new face stretching.


Dear Fatty is the fabulous autobiography of Dawn French, Vicar of Dibley, comedienne extraordinaire and all round seemingly lovely lady. She has always been a celebrity to admire, both for her refusal to conform to the stereotypes expected of celebrities nowadays, and for the way she has managed to keep her successful career and family life separate, leading an apparently normal life away from the limelight, and allowing her daughter to do the same. However, Dear Fatty sheds knew light on the amazing strength of this admirable woman, in the face of personal tragedy, blatant racism, and of course mothering a teenager.

If you are familiar with any of the work of Dawn French, you will be able to hear her brilliant comedy voice throughout as you read Dear Fatty. Her brilliant letters aimed at Madonna provide a brilliant comedy angle

Velcro factor: 7/10. There is no specific drama making you stick to reading the book, but as with all autobiographies, you kind of want to fast forward to the bit where she gets famous. And of course, the next punchline is always just over the page.

Humour score: 9/10. Well, she is a comedian, y'know.

Overall rating: 8/10.  Probably not good for reading on a packed train, or anywhere it would be considered unacceptable to chuckle out loud. Oh hell, try it, spread the joy.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Look what I found...

No really, look!


For the uninitiated, (and shame on you) Froot Loops are a breakfast cereal hailing from the grand old U S of A. They're like Cheerios, in that they're round, but with added colour, flavour, sugar and, best of all,  E-NUMBERS!

Stumbling between Covent Garden and Leicester Square yesterday I came across a wondrous little shop called Cyber Candy, selling all sorts of foreign sweets and snacks, mainly from America (Hersheys, for example), and British sweets that you can no longer get elsewhere such as Wonka Nerds, Dweebs and Runts.I actually went in the shop with hopes of encountering Fizzy Jerks, so if anyone reading this knows where I can get some, PLEASE let me know. I had a quick scout around, and was about to leave when I saw them. Froot Loops. Glittering down at me from the top shelf, begging to be bought.

So that is how I came to be walking through Leicester Square with  two beautiful pots of this holy grail, amassing a total of, well, of 84g of the fruity wonderness. I contemplated eating them then and there, but you can't have Froot Loops without milk, so decided to wait until this morning at breakfast. I was, however, extremely worried that they wouldn't be as good as I remember and I would end up with another disappointment of a childhood memory. Mountain Dew was bad enough.

Honest to God, I've never been so excited about getting out of bed. They were literally begging to be eaten!

I peeled back the lid and sniffed, the sweet e-number crammed smell transporting me instantly back to America. Actually, Canada. I closed my eyes and was instantly back in July 1998, the basement restaurant of the Holiday Inn, Toronto, where my lifelong love affair began. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the pot was quite full too, having feared that I had been ripped off with pots full of air, a token loop of each colour at the bottom.

Somehow, it didn't feel right putting this holy grail, the epitome of the American Dream, next to a good old British cuppa, so I did away with my breakfast brew. You know it's a special day when that happens.

Once the milk was poured, I was faced with the age old quandary that all dedicated Froot Loop fans will identify with; do I eat fast, as is my tactic with normal cereal, to get to the bottom before the cereal has gone soggy? But you forget, dear reader, that this is no ordinary cereal. The other option was to linger, take my time, enjoy the moment, and wait for that magical bit at the end where all the milk is colourful. Being as indecisive as I am, I took the middle road and ate at an average pace. I successfully finished before the cereal went soggy but was thoroughly disappointed to see the milk had resolutely stayed white. Is the beautiful rainbow coloured milk I remember from my youth nothing more than a figment of my imagination? How saddening.

My conclusion? These bad boys are like America in a pot. Milk colouring aside, they really are as good as I remember, fruity, sugary heaven. I've been bouncing off the walls all day as well. Actually can't wait for breakfast tomorrow!

PS. If you want to find the shop where I bought these and are having difficulty, it's next to a bright pink shop called 'Snog'. Enough said, really.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

A sandwich short of a prawn.

You've been good enough to take the time out of your busy schedule to click on a link in some obscure corner of the interweb to get here, so I'll get to the point. M&S have changed their prawn sandwiches, and one is not amused ('one' being me. For all I know, Her Maj is rolling around with joy on the floor of her local M&S food store as I write this, with Philip shouting "Liz, Liz! Has one lost one's marbles?"  If only he'd had the prawn sarnie, he'd know...)

I digress. Prawn sandwiches. Well, for a start, some clown has started putting pepper in there (the condiment kind, not the vegetable kind, not that either is acceptable.) For the joy(?) of this extra pepper, you can add on an extra 25p to the price thank-you-very-much-and-goodnight.

There is also extra mayo. "Extra mayo?" I hear you cry, "What a delight!" and yes, I was tempted to agree with you at first, but having delved deeper into the issue, it seems that this extra mayo is covering something more sinister; fewer prawns.

'I see what's happening here' I thought to myself as one of my few remaining prawns slid inelegantly out of my grasp and into the clutches of a lurking pigeon. They have decided to remove some of the prawns, no doubt to please a certain Mr. Fearnley-Whittingstall, and tried to cover it up by adding extra mayo, and the elusive pepper. By the time they were done, they were so pleased with the more wholesome looking final product that they realised they could add an extra 25p for the pleasure of it.

Beware the wrath of the prawn sandwich, my friend. And also the pigeon who watched me eat it, he was kind of big.